We just returned from a few days on the Leelanau Peninsula, a piece of land between Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay that would be the pinkie of the Michigan mitten. One day was spent at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore where we walked the boardwalk out to a lookout over the dune cliff and Lake Michigan. We have been visiting this area for 50 years so it is full of memories, especially of watching our children climb the dunes and play along the shore. Back then there were no boardwalks or concerns about protecting this fragile ecosystem.
Linked to Cee’s Which Way Challenge for June 1.
Along the northwest shore of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is the Grand Traverse Bay formed by the mainland and the Lelanau Peninsula. At the tip of the Lelanau Peninsula is the Grand Traverse Lighthouse marking the opening to the Grand Traverse Bay. This lighthouse has guided ships since it was built in 1858, now with an automatic light tower.
I wanted to photograph the lighthouse from a different perspective so I walked toward the beach. The beach was a surprise and provided a quiet retreat for the few minutes I wandered through the paths. I love the diversity of beach along the more than 3,000 miles of Great Lake beach front in Michigan.
We thought a Friday in the middle of September, before peak color season in upper Michigan, would be a good time to take a quiet, relaxing tour of the Leelanau Peninsula. We were wrong – many other people had the same false belief.
The Leelanau Peninsula is a narrow piece of land that runs north between Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay. If you can see in your mind’s eye Michigan as a mitten, the Leelanau Peninsula would be where the pinky finger is. It is most famous for its cherries and wineries; there are 26 wineries on the peninsula. It is close to the 45th parallel that is ideal for growing grapes, especially white. But our goal this time was not to do the winery tours that are well advertised.
Our goal was to visit the small villages as we drove the perimeter of the peninsula, the small towns that we have visited before. It has been many years since we have been here so we had the advantage of visiting places that gave us the feeling of “coming home” while also having new adventures.
We stopped at Leland because I had purchased really good fish sausage at a store on the docks once upon a time, long ago. There were scores of tourists, but we found a parking space behind some shops. I grabbed my camera and walked towards the shops below where the fish weather vane and sign identifying Historic Fishtown.
And I smiled. This isn’t for tourists – unless you want to charter a fishing cruise. This is where fishing boats are docked and fish are processed.
This is where I bought some excellent white fish sausage and smoked salmon. Just what we needed with our cheese and cracker mid afternoon snack.
Thought of the day: I tell myself that places like this are where I most enjoy taking photographs. They feel authentic and have personality and I like capturing the personality of a place. But then I have to question whether this is any more authentic than the “touristy” street up the hill from Fishtown. Both are commercial and both meet a need for both visitors and the community. Is the shopping district any less authentic? No, it is also Leland – but still it seems to be very much like other tourist shopping districts in all parts of the U.S. I don’t get excited about capturing the personality of a shopping district designed to meet the needs of tourists. What do you think?
Just north of Frankfort and west of Traverse City in Michigan, on the shore of Lake Michigan, is the Point Betsie Lighthouse. I’ve been there several times over the years because friends have a cottage on the Betsie River and we used to visit them there when they were younger. We have also camped in this area. Visiting the lighthouse gives me the joy of visiting the familiar, even though the familiar has changed, for real or maybe because I’ve changed.
There are a lot of lighthouses on the Great Lakes and they fascinate me. There is a romance about them – maybe they trigger that longing deep within me, calling me to a rugged life – at least when I was younger and had more tolerance for simpler but harder living. I think it is filed with the fantasies from when I was a girl; to live in a log cabin in the deep forest, or a mud hut on the frontier. Those fantasy where I bake bread and hang gingham curtains in the windows.
Our visited this year was on a calm day, when the waves were gently lapping the rocky shore. But my mind can imagine the fierce fall and winter storms, probably fueled by stories of ship wrecks, men lost to the cold depths. The breakers filled with large rocks designed to slow down shore erosion also support my image of the fierceness of storms. I have seen how huge waves form ice on everything before the water freezes along the shore and how large blocks of ice push themselves upon the shores.
The dune in the foreground and the white along the horizon that looks like a glacier is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
I often wonder what it would have been like living in a lighthouse, knowing that lives depended on the keeper keeping the light fueled at all times. And knowing that the light mattered most as the weather became worse – those cold, blustery nights when I want to hunker down under a warm quilt.
Now the lights are electric and modernized so they don’t need 24/7 attention. And many of the lighthouses that we have visited also have fog horns.
Many of the lighthouses on the Great Lakes have tours, and you can even book vacations in an apartment at this lighthouse. There are tours of this lighthouse and I’ve toured others. In my aging years I have not chosen to tour them because there are a lot of steps and I’ve shifted my joys to taking photographs of the outsides and surrounding landscapes. Maybe I want to protect my early fantasies from the corruption of too much reality. I believe facts are very important but this seems a safe area to relax that value a little bit. Maybe it is also adapting to what my aging body can safely do.
Here is a link for more info: Michigan Point Betsie Lighthouse